Jeff Koehler opens Darjeeling, appropriately, on a Darjeeling tea estate, describing the picking, processing, and taste of the first flush of leaves. Throughout the book, he will return to the estates during processing times for the second, monsoon, and autumn flushes looking at what makes each flush different and describing the teas from each flush with an appreciation that made me want to grab a cup full. He also writes of estate histories, business, tea-pluckers, and land management practices as well as the sale of tea.
After describing the first flush, Koehler spends some time on the history of tea in general with a short lesson in Indian history—inevitable, as the two are closely intertwined. By part two, he moves to the tea of the title, writing about what makes Darjeeling unique. Land management, tasting, pricing, history, labor practices, and beliefs are examined in detail. He also writes of current troubles the growers are having and the debates over possible solutions.
Koehler went to the estates, walked their terrain and interviewed people involved at all levels, and it shows. This is an intimate, close-up look at one particular tea. The merits of the brew are lovingly detailed, leaving no doubt that Darjeeling is a cut above the rest. He has also done a lot of background research which informs his writing without overwhelming it. The result is an extraordinarily detailed look at one corner of the world.
Darjeeling is recommended for the avid tea enthusiast. Look for someone with a stash of different teas that they can rattle off by name or who you hope to have join you in the joy of tea.
Darjeeling: The Colorful History and Precarious Fate of the World’s Greatest Tea by Jeff Koehler comes out May 12, 2015. Look for it on Amazon.
Edit: There is also an audio version from Audible studios. Click here to order Amazon. Click below to play sample:
Pairs well with:
The Tea Lover’s Treasury by James Norwood Pratt
Darjeeling-Chocolate Layer Cake The book has plenty of recipes of its own in the back, but this is a long-time favorite of mine. Confession: I have never made it with actual Darjeeling tea. Strong black tea works well, though, giving the chocolate an extra boost.